Lawyer calls slashing pension of ex-county employee unfair Hayman's continuity of service at issue

December 19, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

It would be unfair to slash the pension of a former county employee to make up for the excesses of an overly generous retirement system, a county lawyer argued yesterday in Anne Arundel Circuit Court.

"This is not the case for someone to make for a taking out, or for a public venting, of frustration on the plan, by going after one individual," David A. Plymyer, deputy county attorney, told Judge Eugene M. Lerner.

State Del. John R. Leopold and Charles Brown, a former member of the county Pension Oversight Commission, sued last year to overturn the county's decision to allow Louise Hayman, an aide to former Executive Robert R. Neall, to increase her county pension by adding credit for four years of state service.

Lawyers for both sides were in court yesterday, asking Lerner to rule in their favor before the case gets to trial.

Lerner said he would study the issues raised by the lawyers.

At the center of the dispute are the county's controversial pension plan for appointed and elected officials, which became an issue in the 1994 campaign after disclosures of large payouts to county employees who worked for relatively short periods; and Hayman, who was Neall's press secretary from January 1991 to December 1994.

For four years before joining Neall's staff, Hayman worked for William Donald Schaefer when he was governor.

But when she joined the Neall administration, she worked for 71 days as a contractual employee.

Fredrick R. Franke Jr., the lawyer for Leopold and Brown, argued yesterday that Hayman's temporary contractual status represented a "break in service" that should prevent her from transferring her time in state service to the county system.

"We feel that the county should be administering the plan in the interests of the taxpayers and that there shouldn't be any sacred cows allowed to feed from the pension trough," Leopold said afterward.

If Hayman is allowed to collect benefits from her state service, it will mean an annual payment of about $26,000, according to court papers.

If Lerner rules there was a break in service preventing her from collecting for her state service, she will collect $19,000 a year, the papers say.

Plymyer defended the county's decision to permit Hayman to collect the higher benefits. He said the law requiring continued service as a condition for transferring benefits did not go into effect until 1994, three years after Hayman was hired.

"What it amounts to is a yanking of the rug out from somebody," he said.

Hayman, 48, said that under county pension rules, she should be able to begin collecting benefits when she turns 50.

"All I can say is that we're really looking for a positive resolution of this case," she said.

John Murphy, Hayman's lawyer, said she was never informed of the potential effects of the temporary contractual status on her pension benefits.

He said Hayman agreed to the temporary status only so that the press information officer she replaced could remain on the payroll while that officer looked for another job.

"This is not a case about Ms. Hayman trying to secure something she's not entitled to," Murphy told the court.

Pub Date: 12/19/96

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